“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, July 04, 2009

July 4th , small town America, over seventy years.

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more. "
- John Adams to wife Abigail


  1. Adams may have been two days off on his prediction, but not far from his speculation about the activities.

    The ideals of the 4th of July are bigger than the current economic crisis or political posture.

    I found these three little clips revealing. Over seventy years we have become fatter, present company excluded of course, but not much else has changed about the spirit of the day.

    Certainly July 4, 1940 was a sober time to be alive, the seventies more raucus, but fun for sure, and today we have a heap of problems. That does not matter today.

    Today is the holiday we have. Enjoy it. Celebrate is for what it is, one of the sweet mundane moments of a happy life.

  2. Not only did the people grow fatter, with each video, but notice how the venues changed.

    Gone from the current era was Main Street, USA and a celebration of civics.
    What was evident in the video of the current era, carnival and hedonistic fun.

  3. "Over seventy years we have become fatter, present company excluded of course..."


    We had our formal reception and embassy blow-out yesterday. And a good time was had by all. Didn't see the Hondurans there and it's kind of a shame because we'd amassed a store of gentle references to their delicate state of affairs.

    The one guy wearing his Blues post-reception (he was locked out of the office and his change of clothes for an hour or so) was beseeched for photo ops by a bevy of Colombian invitees. (The Guatemalan had more fruit salad but the Guatemalan is not an American.) General Burgess would have gotten a huge kick out of that scene.

    At some point the beer ran out and so did we.

    Ambassador Brownfield throws a party, yes he does. One of his many, considerable gifts.

    And how were we to know that Colombia has relevance for AfPak, if not informed of this by Chuckie, who only a couple of weeks ago was still asserting no such relevance pertained?

    But as one commenter correctly stated, Chuckie takes every side of every issue and declares himself a prophet.

    What a sweet gig that must be.

  4. ... yesterday I forgot my glasses. As I stared unfocused at my notes the acronyms swam forward, their small-print meanings swam away, and I saw only acronyms.

    And in the meaninglessness I suddenly saw meaning. It is this. The entire operation is up its own bottom, lost in committees, strategies and initiatives. Forget what these monstrous letters stand for. Grasp, instead, the essential incoherence.


    You’ll see lots of As there, sometimes standing for Afghanistan, but usually Assistance. The Fs are usually Force. Any contradiction between assistance and force is helpfully blurred by the reduction to acronyms. The infestation of Cs generally denotes Committee, Control or Command. The many Ds and Ns often stand for Drugs, National or Narcotics. Take the CJTF, which is the Criminal Justice Task Force, to be distinguished from the ANP (the Afghan National Police), partially overseen but not exactly trained by EUPOL (European Union Police something-or-other), who are not the same thing as bilateral police assistance, and who are assisted by the ASNF (the Afghan Special Narcotics Force), probably answerable to the MCN (Ministry of Counter-Narcotics) with help from the IU (Intelligence Unit), to be distinguished from SITC (the Special Intelligence and Counter Terrorism body) and operating according to the NDCS (National Drugs Control Strategy), a subset of the ANDS (Afghan National Development Strategy). If it weren’t so tragic, this would be a comic novel by Evelyn Waugh.

    Acronyms are not the only refuge. Others lullaby their brains to sleep swathed in the acrylic blankets of a new language now suffocating the ministries, missions and shirt-sleeved development-wallahs in shiny white Toyota 4x4s: a hideous hybrid of NGO-speak, Whitehall-chic, political pap and military jargon . . .

    “Across the piece”, “agent for change”, “alternative livelihoods”, “asymmetric means of operation”, “capability milestones”, “civilian surge”, “conditionality”, “demand- reduction”, “drivers of radicalisation”, “fixed-wing assets”, “fledgeling capabilities”, “injectors of risk”, “kinetic situation”, “licit livelihoods”, “light footprint”, “lily pads”, “messaging campaign”, “partnering- and-mentoring”, “capacity-building”, “strategic review”, “reconciliation and reintegration”, “rolling out a top-down approach”, “shake — clear — hold — build”, “upskilling”.

    It’s so, so important not to understand the meaning but to hear the noise. ..

    In the fog, remember: victory is impossible in Afghanistan

    It’s easy to be blinded by the valiant effort, as well as the acronyms and euphemisms. But the harsh truth does not change

    From The Times, the voice of Murdock in London

  5. Sweets for the sweet, den mother.

    If it weren't so bittersweet, you'd enjoy it, too.

    The Colombian experience will not translate to Afpakistan, where the Marines roll out in full battle rattle.

    That did not happen, not one time, in Colombia.
    And there the analogous comparison stands.

  6. July 4, 2008 will always stand out in my mind. That's when my best friend became a naturalized US citizen. Then she up and voted for Obama.

  7. If there were 60,000 well trained, equipped and organized Afghani, for the 800 specialists that are arriving with the Six Stars to advise and command, then the Colombian story could translate to the plains of southern Afpakistan.

    But that is not the situation we find on the ground, in Afpakistan, is it? We never stood up a viable indig Afpaki security force.

  8. They started picking up program heads here some time ago for SA. And it's a five-year sign.

    To the Colombians themselves, who've been at it for forty years and only began turning the tide about seven years ago, that's a drop in the bucket.

  9. In this area--I don't know why it is or what it means--the Fourth of July Parade has given way to the Fourth of July evening fireworks display.

    It's just a matter of how the local city council wants to spend some money, I quess. I don't read much into it, one way or the other.

    We were going to go Tea Partying up north, but the wife is tired out from the last trip, so we'll maybe barbecue some hamburgers out back.

    And go to the fireworks display over by the river tonight.

    It makes sense to do things in the evening around here, this time of year, it being really hot during the day.

    Rat in his usual depressing way will see this as a failing of patriotism, a sagging of the patriotic will, on behalf of the entire society, but I really don't think it is.

    In our case, it's just a matter of getting a little older, and trying to marshal the energy.

    Best of Fourths to everyone.

    And I hope you've all invited an Iranian jihadi over for pork chops, hard likker, and smokes. And a topless swim in the pool, too.

    (That painting of the naked lady in the last post--that had to be by Manet? Or Monet? Or one of the other French?)

  10. Bobal: (That painting of the naked lady in the last post--that had to be by Manet? Or Monet? Or one of the other French?)

    Bobal did you learn that trick by taking the Mrs. to museums? Misdirection by feigning interest in who painted it and when, and what style, when all the time your eyes are drinking in acres of female flesh.

  11. I'd rather see her from the front, T., but that's just me.

    That way we could study facial features, personality, suggestive smile, that come hither look, etc.

    I think it's got to be one of those French folks.

  12. I love the sound of the projector, in the back ground, of the first video.

    I didn't have opportunity to strut my stuff in the second video, since, I was only in 6th grade.

    And people in Maine are just boring.

  13. And people in Maine are just boring.

    O come on, I had a friend from Maine once. Well, actually, he was from here, his family was from Maine, but still, he was an exciting guy. His dad was in the Forestry Department, U of I, and he introduced me to those high mountain lakes, back in the National Forests. He tore his pants, down by the crotch, on one hike, and got his balls mosquitoe bit. That was exciting. At least for him.

    We caught some big fish, monsters really, threw them back. And saw a moose, too.

  14. Can we post an 1812 Overture link?

    We had to hum it last night and while that'll do on some occasions, in some places, the full orchestral and artillery tradition ought to be observed here.

  15. You got it Red.

    MLD we appreciate you struttin your stuff baby.

  16. The fish there in that lake, which was maybe 40 acres, with a snowfield up back, and high crags, and little flowers around like my moniker here, the fish would cruise around the shore line. As far as fishing goes, it didn't take much skill, as they were hungry as hell, having lived in the ice all winter, or under the ice, and would strike practically anything you'd throw at 'em.

    I think you could have thrown them an Iranian ham sandwich, and they'd bite.

    Big suckers. Twenty inches and more. Rainbows. That would qualify them as a steelhead here, by length, though they don't go to the ocean, so they're just Rainbows.

    Not like fishing the Wenaha, where you got to know what you're doing, got to be able to read the river, and change flies around, till you get it right.

    Actually if I had a choice of where to be right now, on this Fourth of July, it would down on the Wenaha, where the eagles eat well.

    Those high mountain lakes, most of them, have been seeded with fish, by guys that like to hike and fish, packed 'em in back packing with a 10 gallon water sack on back, with little fingerlings. Waterbucks, they were called, these backpackers. They didn't, most of them, the lakes, have fish in them, by nature.

    I couldn't believe it, this lake, they are all kind of the same in a way, bowls up in a very high Alpine crag, this lake, like many of the others, had a sufficient little stream pouring out of it, that had some fish in it too. It was hard to believe they could live there, in that little creek. Then it cascaded over a ledge, no fishing there.

    It was a son of a bitch getting up there, I can tell you. I couldn't do it now. We had to scramble. Straight up, part of it.

    I wish I was young again.

    I'd even invite Rat along, if he'd promise not to sell it off.

  17. ...I didn't have opportunity to strut my stuff in the second video, since, I was only in 6th grade.

    Puts you in the prime of life now, hon. Showing maturity in your choice of company, if not your behavior.

    A mark of distinction.

  18. ...Chuckie takes every side of every issue and declares himself a prophet.

    How did I miss that?

    Sounds like it belongs in a Kris Kristopherson song.

    Somewhere in the lyrics above...He's a pilgrim, he's a prophet, he's a problem when he's stoned...a walkin' contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction ...